Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Phishing emails "exploit Windows flaws"

When people were asked for examples of oxymorons, they often used to cite phrases such as "military intelligence" or "friendly fire". Now, Internet users may well be asking themselves whether "Microsoft Works" should feature in that list of prime oxymoronic examples, following the latest news about how phishing criminals are reportedly taking advantage of loopholes in Windows and, particularly, in Internet Explorer.... (more)

Petra Eccles
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Monday, April 10, 2006

Online movie downloads given boost

US movie fans will soon be able to download movies on the same date as they're released as DVD's. Online film downloading services Movielink and CinemaNow are due to start selling downloads such as Brokeback Mountain this week.....

Petra Eccles

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Last gasp for online cigarette buyers?

New Jersey smokers who sought to save money by buying tax-free cigarettes online may now face demands from the state authorities for those unpaid taxes after all......

Petra Eccles

Saturday, April 08, 2006

New phishing scam preys on PayPal & eBay members

If you have a PayPal and eBay account, watch out, because there's a new "phishing" scam that tries to steal your identity. This is what happened to me.

I had sold an item on eBay and had received the winning bidder's payment via PayPal. Then, several days after my auction had ended, I received what looked like a member-to-member message via the PayPal system, saying the sender was very interested in the item I was selling and asking at what price I would be prepared to let the sender buy it.

Two things aroused my suspicion. First, as I said, the auction had already ended. Second, when I clicked on the button to enable me to reply via My Messages on the PayPal system, I was taken to a website that looked like PayPal Germany - which was in iteself odd, because I don't live in Germany. I also noticed that the destinations of the links on this fake site were not to official PayPal sites, especially the one from the form where you had to fill in your PayPal ID and password!

The scammers obviously hoped that they would thereby get hold of members' personal details - and in a way that was less obvious than the usual "phishing" email.

If you have a similar experience, please leave a comment here. Thanks!

Cellular / mobile phones were first thought of in the 60's!

As an aside from my usual advice about safe purchasing online, I'd just like to ask if you have just bought or are about to buy a cellular / mobile phone online. Well, if you are, did you know that this technology was first envisaged in the 1960's?!

I've just seen a TV show where they were discussing the influence of science fiction on technical/scientific advances. Somebody on the show was saying that this type of phone was thought up by the creators of the TV show Star Trek four decades ago and that the characters in the show were frequently seen using them.

Can any Trekkies out there confirm this?

Petra Eccles


Friday, April 07, 2006

London police bust DVD pirates (2)

Hmmm... following on from my earlier post, I've been thinking a bit more about instances when buying fake/counterfeit goods online could be dangerous for the buyer.

There are things like fake designer shoes which could damage your feet. But much more serious (and obvious) threats to our physical well-being are those posed by the trade in fake spare parts for planes and cars and fake medications.

It just beggars belief!

Petra Eccles


London police bust DVD pirates

News has just emerged in the UK that the Metropolitan Police, which covers London, carried out a raid in the last day or so on premises where a huge DVD pirating operation was being carried out.

So what has that got to do with buying safely online?

Well, if you respond to an ad for a really cheap DVD of a current box-office hit movie, for example, how do you know if it's the genuine article or counterfeit? If it is counterfeit, what repercussions could their be for you that could decrease your safety?

First and foremost there are the legal implications. Depending on where you live, you could find yourself prosecuted for importing counterfeit goods, aiding criminal activity, etc.

The fact is that most illegal copying and selling of DVD's and CD's on a big scale is carried out by criminal gangs who often go on to use the proceeds from these operations to fund other more sinister activities, such as drug smuggling or terrorism, etc., which can affect anyone and everyone and make all our lives less safe.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

Petra Eccles


How to protect yourself when buying online

Over the years, I've noticed that the number of blatant scams seems to have multiplied at an alarming rate. How often have you seen something that looks like a tempting offer, but turns out to be asking you to hand over money for something totally worthless.

So what can you do to help protect yourself?

The number one rule is to ask yourself a very important and straightforward question... Does this offer seem too good to be true?

If it does seem too good to be true, then it probably isn't true. There's no such thing as a free lunch!

There are many variations on the offers that don't live up to their claims in one way or another. Here are some of the main ones, together with some ways you can check how worthwhile they are.

* You're sent an email saying you've won a free computer, car, vacation, or whatever. Ask yourself what you actually have to do to get the "free" gift. Do you have to purchase anything? Do you have to phone a certain number (for which you'll probably have to pay a premium rate and thus provide the scammer with a nice profit)? Do you have to pay an "administration fee"? If the answer to any of these is "yes", then don't respond to the offer because it's probably not going to deliver what you're hoping for.

* You see an online ad placed by somebody who claims to be making thousands every year in a particular business without having to do much work. Do you have to pay to join up or get information about this business? Does the business actually sell anything or does the whole business revolve around recruiting more people to pay a joining fee? Do you have suspcions about why this person is having to spend their time selling information or membership if their business is making them so much money? Again, if you answer "yes" to any of these questions, then walk away from the offer!

* You receive an email from somebody in a far-flung country claiming to be a relative of a (usually) deceased government minister or senior executive in a major corporation. The usual ploy is to tell you that they have access to a secret stash of many millions of dollars which they have to get out of the country and they can only do that by transferring it via your bank account. No need to ask yourself any "litmus test" questions. Just run away from it like the wind! This is the famous "419" scam that originated in Nigeria. If you want to know more about it, or why it got that name, just look it up on Google, where there is a huge amount of information about it.

But please don't get so worried that you never buy anything online ever again. Most of the time it's great fun and you can find many genuine bargains and opportunities. Just remember to be careful and buy wisely.

Petra Eccles